Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I do indeed recall the efforts of Lord Ennals. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, was kind enough to draw them to my attention when we last discussed the issue in your Lordships' House. I do not know whether the money from Saudi Arabia is still on the table in the way he suggested. I hope that I may be able to write to him with further information on that point. We must accept that the movement of the Bihari people is a matter primarily for the governments of Pakistan and Bangladesh to resolve.

Jubilee Line Extension

3.11 p.m.

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, I understand that London Transport is planning to open the Jubilee Line extension at the end of September 1998.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. I tabled the Question because last week I read in the Evening Standard that there was a chance that the Jubilee Line extension would not open until

10 Nov 1997 : Column 9

after the millennium--in 2001--because of signalling problems. We all know what such problems can cause to railways. Does the Minister have a contingency plan in case the Jubilee Line is not open? Will everyone go to the exhibition by bus or car? If people cannot reach that destination, will not the viability of the dome be adversely affected?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, we have investigated the reports to which my noble friend refers. I understand that the New Millennium Experience company received assurances from London Underground that the extended Jubilee Line will cope adequately with the forecast number of visitors arriving at North Greenwich Station to visit the Millennium Experience.

My noble friend and other Members of the House may be reassured to know that the Jubilee Line extension is being built with the traditional system of fixed block signalling, which will operate as a fallback, as well as the advanced signalling which will normally be in operation. Therefore, it should be possible to open in 1998 even if there are difficulties with the signalling.

Lord Allen of Abbeydale: My Lords, my question does not arise directly out of the Question on the Order Paper. Does the Minister's Answer mean that the part of the line between Waterloo and Westminster, which could be useful to some of us, must wait until the whole project is completed?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, London Transport is planning to open the line in September 1998, but it must have in mind a number of contingency plans aimed at achieving that under various circumstances. There have been difficulties around Westminster Station, which is extremely deep and constricted in construction terms. Therefore, there is a possibility that the Jubilee Line extension may open initially without the sections at Westminster Station.

Lord Luke: My Lords, delighted though one is to hear that the Jubilee Line extension will be ready for the millennium, the problem with regard to other access has not been answered. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked what contingency plans there might be. With 12 million visitors expected, would it not be better to accelerate plans for car parks in Barking and Thamesmead so that the river can be used to ferry people to the site?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, there will be an excellent public transport network including, but not exclusively, the Jubilee Line extension, offering a variety of ways to travel to the millennium exhibition. In addition to the JLE, there will be new river boat services, new riverside walking and cycling facilities, a new transit link to the north Kent rail line, secure cycle and motorcycle facilities, a purpose-built coach park and, possibly, a cable car across the Thames.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, allowing for what the Minister has described, does she agree that all parts of

10 Nov 1997 : Column 10

all Underground networks break down from time to time? The Millennium Dome is virtually dependent on the link for the bulk of its support. What contingency plans are in place should there be an Underground breakdown, to which we in central London are perfectly accustomed?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I repeat that London Transport has been made aware of the importance of the Jubilee Line functioning. It is due to open at the end of September 1998, which is in plenty of time for the millennium exhibition. Although the noble Lord said that the majority of people are expected to travel there on the Jubilee Line, I understand that approximately half of all the visitors in 2000 are expected to travel on the line. As I said previously, the fixed block signalling is being installed as a contingency measure because the moving signalling can cause problems.

Baroness David: My Lords, must we wait until the end of 1998 for the final version of Westminster Station?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am afraid that the import of my earlier answer is that it might be beyond the end of 1998 before we see the final version of Westminster Station. It is a complex construction adjacent to the Palace of Westminster. The JLE sections are being constructed around the working District and Circle Lines. Difficulties in relation to that have resulted in delays in completing the station.

Lord Hayhoe: My Lords, in view of the comments about Westminster Station, will the Minister acknowledge the remarkable civil engineering work which is being undertaken there? It is managing to keep the District and Circle Lines working while major activities are taking place in creating a new station. It is a remarkable achievement, and, while it is disappointing that the opening may be delayed, that is not surprising in view of the complexity of the project.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hayhoe, for his helpful comments. It is true that the whole project has been undertaken with the District and Circle Lines in operation. That is a challenging engineering task.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for answering so many positive questions and I feel comforted by her answers. Does she agree that Members of this House and another place having to walk to Waterloo in order to travel to the millennium exhibition is a small price to pay for having a wonderful station at Westminster which will be open in a year or two?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, it is a small price and probably one that is beneficial in terms of cardiovascular systems.

10 Nov 1997 : Column 11


3.18 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m., my noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean will, with the leave of the House, repeat in the form of a Statement an Answer to a Private Notice Question in another place on the current situation in Iraq. It is expected that that will take place before the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham. Supreme Court (Offices) Bill

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and to be printed. Competition Bill [H.L.]

Lord Carter: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Simon of Highbury, I beg to move the Motion standing in his name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That it be an Instruction to the Committee of the Whole House to whom the Competition Bill has been committed that they consider the Bill in the following order:

Clauses 1 to 3, Clauses 17 to 19, Schedules 1 to 4, Clauses 4 to 16, Schedule 5, Clauses 20 to 24, Schedule 6, Clauses 25 to 44, Schedule 7, Clauses 45 to 48, Schedule 8, Clause 49, Schedule 9, Clauses 50 to 52, Schedule 10, Clause 53, Schedule 11, Clauses 54 to 70, Schedules 12 to 14, Clauses 71 and 72.--(Lord Carter.)

On Question, Motion agreed to. British Nationality (St. Helena) Bill [H.L.]

The Earl of Iveagh: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved, That the order of commitment be discharged.--(The Earl of Iveagh.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

10 Nov 1997 : Column 12

International Development

3.20 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean rose to move, That this House takes note of Her Majesty's Government's proposals on international development: Eliminating World Poverty: A Challenge for the 21st Century (Cm 3789).

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I welcome this debate, which could scarcely be more timely. Last week my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development made a Statement in another place, which I repeated in your Lordships' House, announcing the publication of a White Paper on international development, Eliminating World Poverty: A Challenge for the 21st Century. Noble Lords will now, I hope, have had a chance to study the White Paper and I am sure we will have a rich and constructive debate.

Our manifesto made clear that we would give much greater priority to international development than our predecessors. The creation of the Department for International Development, which my right honourable friend heads as a Cabinet Minister, reflects that. So too does the publication of the White Paper. It is the first White Paper on development since that produced by the late Judith Hart over 20 years ago. It sets out the range of the Government's policies on international development, including aid, trade, investment, debt and the environment.

The White Paper was prepared on the basis of wide-ranging consultations within government over the last several months, and extensive consultations with outside interests. We received more than 150 detailed written submissions from outside groups, many of them from NGOs. All have been taken into account in the preparation of the final document. The Government are eager for their policy on international development to be debated and examined. We attach importance to the process of dialogue and consultation. That process will not end simply because the White Paper is now published. I hope other noble Lords will echo the welcome, given by my noble friend Lord Judd in questions on last week's Statement, to the fact that we have published the White Paper so early in the Parliament.

The White Paper is squarely focused on what we can do to eliminate world poverty. The last few decades have seen great advances. On average, people live longer and are in better health. Child death rates in developing countries have been more than halved since the 1960s. People are better fed. Per capita food consumption has increased by 20 per cent. since the 1960s. Malnutrition rates have declined by almost one-third. The percentage of people with access to clean water has doubled to 70 per cent. More people are literate: adult literacy has risen from less than half to about two-thirds. As the White Paper notes, more people have escaped from poverty in the past 50 years than in the previous 500 years. But because of population growth, extreme poverty remains an evil blighting the lives of nearly a quarter of the world's

10 Nov 1997 : Column 13

people. Some 1.3 billion--70 per cent. of them women--live on less than a dollar a day. Women in poor countries are at least 100 times more likely to die in childbirth than women in Britain and the US. Their lives are characterised by hunger, sickness, lack of opportunity and, all too often, violence, crime and civil conflict.

We are committing ourselves in the White Paper to refocus our international development efforts on poverty elimination. This can be achieved only through economic growth which benefits poor people and through improvements to education and healthcare services and measures to increase the opportunities poor people have to improve their lives. We shall support poorer developing countries which are committed to those objectives and pursue policies which will achieve them. The Government have already established their credentials in that respect. The Prime Minister made a specific commitment at the Denver Summit in July to raise by 50 per cent. our bilateral support for basic healthcare, basic education and clean water in Africa.

The White Paper makes clear that we shall chart our progress against clear, internationally accepted targets that have been agreed at UN conferences and by the OECD. The key target is to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty--on less than a dollar a day--by 2015. The targets also cover environmental conservation and human development; for example, making primary education universal and reducing infant and child mortality rates. The targets are challenging, but they are both affordable and achievable if we all work together. The achievements of the past 50 years bear witness to that. The question is whether we have the collective political will. Britain, under this Government, does. The White Paper includes a new statement of purpose for the Department for International Development, built around the contribution we can make with others to the elimination of poverty. We shall measure the progress we and others make towards the international targets, and report systematically on that progress.

We shall pursue the targets in partnership with developing countries who are also committed to them. We shall offer such countries a longer term commitment of support, more resources and greater flexibility in using those resources. Our aim is to ensure that good governments succeed. The nature of our partnership will depend on the circumstances of each partner country and how we can best help. The White Paper sets out in detail the whole range of the Government's financial and technical assistance to developing countries, including education, health, food, water, infrastructure, jobs, gender inequalities and good governance.

The White Paper recognises that a variety of partnerships will be appropriate with different countries. We shall wish to concentrate our development resources on countries in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia where a large proportion of people in extreme poverty live. But we have other responsibilities too. We have, for example, responsibilities for the dependent territories, which the White Paper reaffirms. Their reasonable assistance needs will continue to be a first call on the development programme. Although the focus

10 Nov 1997 : Column 14

of our assistance must be on the poorest countries, there are also many poor people in middle income countries--110 million of them in Latin America alone. We shall therefore seek appropriate ways--for example, technical assistance and working within the multilateral system--to contribute to poverty elimination within those countries. Countries in transition to full democratic societies and market economies face particular difficulties. We shall reshape the Know How Fund to give greater emphasis to protecting the poorest and enabling the widest number of people to share in the fruits of change.

As last week's Statement on the White Paper made clear, eliminating poverty is not just a task for Britain. We shall work also in partnership with other donors and international institutions in pursuit of the targets. The White Paper sets out detailed proposals for our collaboration with the multilateral agencies, including the European Commission, the World Bank, the UN and others. The Government's record in their first months is testament to a commitment to multilateral collaboration--witness our support for the UN Secretary-General's reform package, and our decisions to rejoin UNESCO and to reverse the decision of the previous administration to leave UNIDO. We shall work also with the Commonwealth, where close historical relationships provide a strong basis for mobilising political support for poverty elimination across a large percentage of the world's population.

Your Lordships have asked where the money will come from to fund our contribution to UNESCO for de-mining and other initiatives. Costs this year will be met from the Department for International Development's contingency reserve. Costs in future years will be met by reallocating resources within the Department for International Development's agreed budget as expenditure is brought into line with the Government's objectives and policy priorities.

British business, voluntary agencies and our research community have a vital contribution to make to the eradication of poverty. We have held discussions with all those sectors, which are keen to make a greater contribution, and we shall develop new relationships with each of them.

Much of our programme is already directed towards helping poorer countries to establish the policy and administrative framework which will encourage trade and investment, and facilitate private sector development. But we can do more, together with British business, to help eliminate poverty. The White Paper makes clear the Government's commitment to developing a stronger new partnership between the relevant government departments and the private sector. It announces details of an important new initiative to that end. The proposals include new measures to consult British business on country and other development strategies; to improve the information available to business on trade and investment opportunities in developing countries; to see whether ways can be found to reduce the initial costs and perceived risks for investments which support the aim of poverty elimination; and to ensure that multilateral development projects make full use of the skills of UK business.

10 Nov 1997 : Column 15

The White Paper also announces that the aid and trade provision, which lacks poverty elimination as its central focus and was the means of funding such notorious schemes as the Pergau dam, will close. But the White Paper also makes clear that that does not preclude deploying development assistance in association with private finance, including in the form of mixed credits. In order to avoid the abuses of the past, any mixed credits will be managed within agreed country programmes and will be subject to the agreed strategy and sectoral focus for each country, which would have the primary aim of reducing poverty rather than subsidising exports. I recognise the interest of your Lordships' House on this point, so perhaps I may say in more detail how the new arrangements will work.

Annual resource allocation rounds establish the level of funds available for each of our country development programmes. Country strategy papers set out how poverty is to be tackled in each case. All the activities we support will be set within the framework established in each paper. There will be no separate allocation of funds for mixed credit projects, as was the case with the aid and trade provision. The Department for International Development will consult widely in developing country strategy papers, including with the private and voluntary sectors as well as recipient governments.

The White Paper also confirms our intention to transform the Commonwealth Development Corporation into a public/private partnership which will increase the flow of private investment to the poorer countries. CDC currently has £1.6 billion invested in 404 projects in 54 countries. It is one of the world's leading development finance institutions with 50 years of commercial success in pre-emerging markets and an extensive global network. As the Prime Minister announced last month, we will seek to enlarge the resources at CDC's disposal by introducing private sector capital, with the Government retaining a substantial minority holding and a golden share. CDC will act as an ethical and socially responsible investor in poorer countries, with the proceeds from the sale being ploughed back into the development programme.

We wish also to strengthen our partnership with voluntary organisations and the research community. We will continue to support voluntary agencies, including through the joint funding scheme under which many NGOs receive a substantial proportion of their income and through our support for the volunteer organisations, including VSO. The White Paper makes clear that we will discuss with NGOs how to re-orient our collaboration in the light of our new policies. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development met heads of leading NGOs last month to begin this dialogue. We have also set out new proposals for working with the research community so that the benefits of new knowledge and technology can be extended to poor countries and poor people.

The White Paper is not simply about aid. It covers the full range of government policies affecting poorer countries. We shall ensure much greater consistency across the range of government policies, including

10 Nov 1997 : Column 16

environment, trade, investment and agricultural policy. All will take account of our sustainable development objectives. We wish to ensure that future international agreements on these issues take better account of the developing country dimension. The White Paper sets out, in Section 3, our detailed intentions across the range of those policy areas. Responsibility for this agenda does not rest with any one government department. Many departments have an interest, including the FCO, the DTI, the Treasury, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as well as the Department for International Development. The White Paper represents collective government policy in these areas. The Government will work collectively to implement the policy.

We will give particular attention to human rights, transparent and accountable government and core labour standards, building on the Government's ethical approach to international relations. The White Paper sets out rights which all people are entitled to enjoy.

Political instability and conflict are today impoverishing many countries. There are now some 28 major and more than 100 minor armed conflicts affecting some 70 countries, mostly poor ones. We will use our influence to promote political stability and social cohesion, and, wherever possible, to resolve conflict. Progress over the past few years on the landmine issue demonstrates what can be achieved if political will is mobilised effectively on an international scale.

The White Paper stresses that economic and financial stability is also essential for sustainable development. It makes clear that we will do more to reduce the external debt of developing countries. It reinforces the Government's commitment in the Mauritius Mandate launched by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in September. We are providing a lead by contributing around £6.5 million towards reducing Uganda's debt to the African Development Bank. We are cancelling, at a cost of up to £132 million, aid debts still owed to the UK by those lower income Commonwealth countries which are committed to pro-poor and transparent policies. We are pledging, without condition, around £20 million to the IMF to help it meet its share of the cost of implementing the heavily indebted poor countries initiative.

The Government attach great importance to increasing development awareness in Britain. We have published a shorter summary version of the White Paper which is being widely distributed through supermarkets, development groups and other interested bodies. Every child should be educated about development issues so that he or she can influence the shape of the world that they will inherit. The national curriculum provides for this, and we will work to ensure that relevant teaching materials are available. Every adult should have the chance to influence the Government's policies. We will establish a working group of educationists and others, to be chaired by my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, to improve development education. Your Lordships' House has substantial expertise in the area of development education, not least through the noble Earl,

10 Nov 1997 : Column 17

Lord Sandwich, who plays a prominent role in the Development Education Association. I wish to assure him and others that in taking forward our work in this area our approach will be characterised by the wide consultation we undertook in preparation for the White Paper.

We will also establish an annual development policy forum to bring together the many strands of society with an interest in international development. We will publish an annual report explaining how we will secure the objectives described in the White Paper and what progress has been made against the international development targets.

It is essential for public confidence that there is a clear and unambiguous framework for the use of our development funds. The abuses of the previous administration--not least the Pergau dam affair--have reinforced this. The White Paper therefore announces that we will consult on the case for a new international development Act.

The White Paper is clear about our commitment to provide resources for the development programme. Let me re-state what we will do. The Government will start to reverse the decline in UK spending on development assistance. We also reaffirm our commitment to the 0.7 per cent. UN target. This year and next, our aid spending is being re-directed to ensure that all our resources are used effectively and in accordance with our policy priorities. Having done so, we can justify increasing our development assistance budget from the year 1999-2000.

The White Paper sets out our policy on international development in substantial detail. I am all too aware of the expertise in your Lordships' House on these issues; and I look forward to hearing noble Lords' comments on, and reactions to, the White Paper. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of Her Majesty's Government's proposals on international development: Eliminating World Poverty: A Challenge for the 21st Century (Cm 3789).--(Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean.)

3.38 p.m.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for initiating today's debate. I believe that I learnt a great deal from her speech, mostly, I suspect, because of my own ignorance on the subject. Indeed, she will have little to learn from my experience. Moreover, when I look down the speakers' list and see the length and breadth of experience reflected there, I tremble at the thought of making this, the second speech in the debate, and being exposed to the critical appreciation of so many noble Lords.

I look forward, in a happier vein, to hearing the three maiden speakers. We have a lot of new blood in the House and I am delighted that so much of it is taking to its wings early.

I learnt a great deal today from the clarity of the speech of the noble Baroness. She is putting in a Stakhanovite effort today with five appearances at the Dispatch Box. I look forward to the other two. I learnt

10 Nov 1997 : Column 18

a great deal from her speech because of the opacity of the White Paper. It is worth contrasting the White Paper with the 1997 ODA annual report, published in March this year, which was a model of detail, specific suggestions and specific remedies for the problems that the DfID has to deal with. The White Paper is something akin to a mission statement written with its head in the stars and its feet in the clouds. It is a long way from connecting with any sort of reality of the world which the DfID has to face.

I believe that the Minister and I approach this problem from different directions. Our approach is that we wish countries in the developing world to become like us. We want them to be drawn up to our level of wealth and to our standard of culture. We want to help pull them up in that direction. That is what has informed our effort in aid over the past 20 years. However, early on we recognised the difficulties. You may pull a country up in that way but it tends just to pull up a few people at the top and make them rather rich. Any money which filters down tends to become dissipated in a population explosion and the whole economy ends up pear-shaped. That was something which my noble friend Lady Chalker and her predecessors put a great deal of effort into dealing with over past years. One sees from the 1997 ODA statement the great effort that was put into campaigns of poverty elimination and dealing with the hardship and difficulties experienced not just at the economic centre of countries, but also out in the country, in the poorest parts of the world.

It strikes me that the White Paper is written from a different perspective--a belief that the world can be changed not by pulling up these countries from above but by pushing them from underneath. It is the old Labour dictum that making the poor a little less poor and a bit more comfortable is the solution to the world's problems, providing us with the moral comfort that we desire. I was greatly comforted by the noble Baroness's speech which seemed to go much wider than that. There seems to be a recognition of the importance of industry, of government structures and of education at the higher level. But none of that is really clear in the White Paper. I refer to page six where the Government set out to,

    "create sustainable livelihoods for poor people".
That is a pretty limited ambition. As I said, keeping the poor poor but comfortable, and ideally not too disruptive, seems to me an old Labour way of looking at the world. I hope that the Minister will tell me that the Government's thinking goes further than that.

I am not encouraged by some words of the noble Baroness last week when I contrast them with what we wrote in the 1997 ODA statement on the subject of education. Our ambitions on education were to help to ensure that people,

    "are sufficiently well educated to realise their social and economic potential".
I might speak those words about my own children. They are words of ambition without limit. They are words which express the hope that we shall manage to raise countries to the standard of living that we enjoy.

The noble Baroness, in her reply to me last week, spoke of the importance of educating women about cleanliness, hygiene and clean water. The limit of that

10 Nov 1997 : Column 19

ambition I find depressing. As I said, it reminds me very much of the way the Labour Party used to think. It reminds me of the depressing state that we found this country in, and of the depressing state of education still in Islington and in other parts of this country where the Labour Party holds sway. I hope very much that the noble Baroness will disavow this and say that her ambitions are greater and that the Government are looking at a policy which seeks not merely to make the poor more comfortable but aims to raise countries to a level of prosperity we would hope they could enjoy. That would be little different from the policy that we pursued, perhaps slightly different in emphasis.

As I said, the White Paper strikes me as opaque and extremely short on detail. I hope the noble Baroness will be able today to give us more solid foundation as regards what is proposed to be done. One of the most important ideas in the White Paper is co-operation between ministries. I believe that the White Paper mentions MAFF, the DoE, the Treasury and, perhaps most importantly of all, the Department of Trade and Industry. How is a country in the developing world to succeed if our terms of trade with it are structured so that it can export raw materials but not manufactured goods? How are we to succeed in improving the ecology of the world and the state of preservation of the natural world we have inherited if we do not find ways of working between the DfID and the DoE in both directions to ensure a consistent policy in this country which can link into policies in the developing world? We need a structure behind the fine words in the White Paper; we need an interdepartmental working group. Perhaps the noble Baroness will confirm that such a group is proposed and, if so, who is to serve on it and what its mandate will be. The noble Baroness will know full well from her career that ministries do not talk to each other and that we have a Civil Service structured on vertical lines where bitter rivalries and stupid disputes characterise relationships between ministries. Unless there is a structure which imposes the authority of politicians across ministries and makes sure that this fine objective is pursued, it will be as nothing.

It will be as nothing also to aspire to a target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP as a total aid budget. The Minister has spoken fine words on that matter. It is an old target and it is one that we are all familiar with. It is nice to know that the direction will be reversed on this matter, but how fast will that occur? If the Government had any real commitment to that target, they would say, "The expected growth of this country over the next five years will be 2.5 per cent. a year. If we take 5 per cent. of that growth, that will fulfil the increase in overseas aid necessary to meet the target." That is a simple thing to do. If the Government had any real ambition to meet that target, they could commit themselves to it now. However, they place no timescale on it at all. I fear again that we are faced with empty words.

I note a pie chart on page 10 of the White Paper which illustrates how the extremely poor are distributed around the world. I compare that with the way in which our aid is distributed. If we, as a country, are now to concentrate our aid on the very poor, it seems to me to

10 Nov 1997 : Column 20

flow from that that distribution of our aid ought to change. For instance, sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 17 per cent. of the world's very poor but 30 per cent. of our aid. Is that an imbalance which the Government intend to correct, or is there some other priority, unstated in the White Paper, which will continue the current level of aid for sub-Saharan Africa or perhaps increase it? That should be made clear so that we can understand how the Government are living up to their targets. It would appear that the Caribbean is likely to see a great reduction of aid under the Government's change of policy and the move towards a simple and entire focus on extreme poverty. It is a question of who the losers will be and who, as it were, will be short changed.

The Government propose to focus their aid on partnerships between this Government and individual countries. Where will that leave individual projects? In past years individual projects have been the source of innovation--of new ideas and how they are implemented. At present our aid programme is full of such projects. Will those now become orphans? Will they be neglected? Are they to be the losers?

We have also been keen on developing regional projects. I noted in several speeches of the noble Baroness's right honourable friend a reference to steel bridges required in west Africa having to be imported from this country. If the position were to be changed and we were to support the building of steel bridges in west Africa, we could not do so in one country alone. It has to be done on a regional scale because that is the size of market required to make such a project viable. How does that fit in with the single country partnership idea? Will those projects be the losers?

Of the individual projects now being pursued, which will no longer be pursued? Under the new guidelines, which trade and aid projects put in place since, let us say, 1993 will no longer be pursued? Which individual projects now in place would not be pursued? For instance, shall we see a diminution of aid to universities? How can one argue that aid to universities is dealing with poverty in the country? Does TB eradication deal with poverty? Alternatively--I pick an item at random out of the last ODA annual report--will the theatre group in Vanuatu called Wan Smol Bag be left high and dry? What will be the practical effects of the policy? Nothing in the White Paper tells us who will be the winners and losers. Nothing in the White Paper tells us how large a change we are considering. I hope very much that the noble Baroness will be able to fill us in.

We are looking either at a reaffirmation of all that we have done over the past 20 years, of all that my noble friend Lady Chalker achieved in her time in office, or at a return to the inefficiency and corruption of the old Labour way of doing things. I hope that the former is the truth.

3.51 p.m.

Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, in contrast to the previous speaker, perhaps I may begin by congratulating the Government on the production of an excellent White

10 Nov 1997 : Column 21

Paper. I do not say that as a matter of course because, of late, government White Papers have often been either extremely obscure or simply propaganda exercises. This White Paper is immensely readable. It contains graphics which are comprehensible even by people like me. It is notably devoid of padding such as the ritual photographs of Ministers behind their desks; and for all those matters we give thanks. It is an excellent production. I believe that the Secretary of State for International Development, Clare Short, deserves full marks for a very good start in her term of office, and we wish her well.

I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, is not able to be with us today--and, in particular, during the last speech. I pay tribute to her record in office. But we recognise the difference between the two eras. The noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, was not a member of the Cabinet, although in my view she should have been both on personal grounds and because of the office she held; and, as we know, her department was specifically overruled in the Pergau Dam case by the forces of the Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry. I much welcome the specific registration by the Government that we shall not have any more Pergau Dam episodes masquerading as aid to the underdeveloped world. That will cease under the new policy. That is welcome indeed.

Having given such a strong welcome to the White Paper, which is good on analysis and aspiration, it is a little short on targets and specifics. In my brief contribution I wish to mention three areas where I believe that the White Paper could and should be stronger and where I press the Government for further consideration.

First, as regards the aid question, everyone knows--it is well in the public mind--that our supposed target for aid is the UN target of 0.7 per cent. of gross domestic product. In the White Paper the Government state that they will reverse the decline in the aid programme. When considering the table on page 79 of the White Paper, this country has a lamentable record. But we are entitled to ask when that target will be reached. The Government have not set themselves a target. In our election manifesto, my party suggested that there should be a specific aim of 10 years. That is not a particularly high aspiration. If no date is set, how are we to know when the target will be arrived at? I press the Government to be a little more specific on achieving the laudable aim which they set out in the White Paper.

Although the target of aid is a matter about which the public is conscious, I agree with the noble Baroness that the level of aid is by no means the most important item in this paper. Indeed, there is a commitment in the White Paper to use our presidency of the EU in order to assist the renegotiation of the Lome Convention and secure better terms of trade for the less developed world. If achieved, that would make a far greater contribution to the welfare of those countries than even modest increases in the aid budget.

What I say about trade applies even more to debt relief. I welcome what the Government have done as regards the poorest Commonwealth countries. The graph

10 Nov 1997 : Column 22

on page 72 of the White Paper indicates that the appalling total debt burden, international as well as bilateral, in sub-Saharan Africa amounts to 80 per cent. of the gross national product per annum. That is a horrific figure. We are talking about countries of very little substance having to spend 80 per cent. of their resources each year repaying debt. That is surely morally unacceptable in this day and age. I very much hope that the Government will press even more strongly through the international agencies for greater measures of debt relief. Those debts are often incurred by autocratic rulers who have since lost office and have left behind a terrible legacy for their democratic successors.

The second area about which I wish to see greater emphasis in the white Paper is the conventional arms trade. There is again a welcome reference to using the presidency of the European Union in order to do something about the illicit trafficking in conventional arms. That is an important question. However, I am more concerned about the legal trafficking in conventional arms. In the past year we have seen great progress on landmines. The late Princess of Wales did much to raise public consciousness on this question. I pay full tribute to the Government of Canada. They have given a strong lead towards securing an international agreement on the banning of landmines. But let us resolve to make that a start: to achieve a reduction in the trafficking in conventional weaponry. Not only are the traditional manufacturers engaged in that process, but relative newcomers on the scene such as Brazil and South Africa are adding to the quantities. That is not to mention the tremendous trade now in second-hand weaponry which causes so much havoc around the world. Surplus weapons from the disintegration of the Soviet Union, from China, the United States, France and even from Britain are to be found all over the world. Not only do they help to fuel conflict but they are also a major contributory factor to urban crime in the poorer parts of the world.

At this period of the year we have Remembrance Sunday and the various commemorations for those who fell in the two world wars. In particular, we think of the horrific slaughter of the First World War. But, as I reminded Members of another place in my last speech, there is one fundamental difference between the casualties in the First World War and those we see in war today. In the First World War 90 per cent. of the casualties were servicemen and women, whereas in today's conflicts 90 per cent. of the casualties are civilians--women and children. I believe that the conventional arms trade has been somewhat overlooked in the international politics of the past two or three decades because of our understandable concern about nuclear proliferation.

While talking of conflicts and concentrating on sub-Saharan Africa, since that is the part of the world that I know best, perhaps I may ask whether the Government will respond to the suggestion made by Oxfam that they should take a lead in convening a conference on the future of the Great Lakes area following the conflicts there. There is a danger that we simply allow the four or five countries in that region to fester in the wake of the tragic conflicts.

10 Nov 1997 : Column 23

My third and last point relates to the need for greater emphasis than is demonstrated in the White Paper on the spreading of democracy in the poorer regions of the world. The only bulwark against the corruption mentioned frequently in the White Paper is the full accountability of governments to their people. There is no substitute for that. It is interesting that the league table produced in 1996 by Transparency International of countries with the greatest levels of corruption as perceived by their business associates put Nigeria first, Pakistan second and Kenya third. All are countries where democracy is either suspended or undergoing some deterioration.

There is no surer fight against corruption, drug-trafficking and money laundering--subjects mentioned in the White Paper--than a thoroughly accountable system of government. I recognise that that is easier said than done. That is why, while I welcome the provision in the White Paper indicating that aid provisions will be tilted favourably towards those countries that engage in economic reforms, it is just as important that the same favouritism should be demonstrated towards countries that engage in democratic reforms as well.

I believe that there is a change of heart in the IMF and the World Bank. When I visited them both in Washington earlier this year, I detected a change of mood to one that is more willing to accept the fact that we cannot isolate economic reforms from democratic and civil society reforms at the same time. Therefore I hope that our own financial efforts will be unashamedly favourable towards those countries that demonstrate a genuine commitment to democracy. It is very sad when countries such as Kenya or Zambia, which we had hoped to see on the path to multi-party democracy, tend to retrench from it. We must be disturbed by reports from both countries of shootings and disruption of opposition activities. It is important that we make it clear that such retrenchment from democratic institutions and traditions will not be viewed favourably by this country or by the international community.

It is not enough to go through the exercises in which I have been involved so many times in monitoring elections. We have to be willing to act when elections are stolen or corrupted, as for example happened in the province of Zanzibar during the Tanzanian elections. The former president of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere, gave an interesting lecture at Edinburgh University last month which I was able to attend. He talked, quite rightly, about not trying to impose what he described as Coca Cola democracy on the developing world. We cannot simply pick packages of democracy and insist that something like the Westminster pattern has to be followed. We must be tolerant of systems of democracy which are adapted to meet the needs of particular countries.

The fundamental accountability of government is what matters, whether at local or national level. That is why I am disappointed that in the White Paper there is not even a passing mention of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. The organisation has done very useful work, albeit limited by its budget. It

10 Nov 1997 : Column 24

deserves greater prominence. I declare an interest as a member of the board of International IDEA, the new Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, based in Stockholm. It was founded three years ago and now includes 14 member governments--sadly, not Britain, because the previous Administration decided that Treasury constraints prevented them from making a contribution. That is a false economy. Such institutions, whether domestic or international, which promote notions of accountability, are essential if we are to be successful in combating corruption and helping to alleviate poverty. Only when governments are responsible, accountable and answerable to their people can we be sure that their programmes will be geared towards the needs of ordinary people--that means the mass of the population, those who suffer most from all the indicators of poverty referred to and clearly described in the White Paper.

I conclude with a quotation from President Nyerere's lecture. Referring to Zaire, he said:

    "The late President Mobutu ... was the biggest and the most notorious of the looting leaders of Africa. He rose to power and stayed in power for more than thirty years only because he received unstinting external support from America and Europe despite his ruthless exploitation and suppression of the peoples of Zaire.

    He has now gone. But he has left the country in a state of destitution as well as economic and social collapse".

That is true; and while President Mobotu may be the most notorious of those African leaders, he is by no means alone. We have to face up to our own responsibility: during the whole period of the Cold War we were too inclined in the West, including in this country, to give support to those African leaders who were perceived to be "on our side", whether they were democratic or not. That era has passed. There ought to be a greater emphasis in the White Paper not only on alleviating poverty and creating a more just society in those countries, but on making sure that they have the sustained constitutional system that enables all their governments to be answerable to their peoples.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page